$4.5B Meat Snack Sector Continues To Gain Ground

Cleveland — Meat snacks are ideally positioned for keto, paleo and other high protein, low carb lifestyles that are dominating the diet scene, according to Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics, LLC. Protein has been a popular ingredient for more than five years and appears to have staying power based on Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) data. Sales of protein-enhanced snacks, and snacks that inherently have a high protein content such as meat snacks, have been far above average.

Now a $4.5 billion market, meat snacks grew 21.8 percent during the 52 weeks ending November 28, 2021, according to IR data. Compared to the pre-pandemic normal of 2019, this is up 33 percent, Roerink explains.

Importantly, units and volume grew as well. In fact, volume grew 15.8 percent for the 52-week period, signaling strong demand as consumer mobility grows. At the same time, that leaves a substantial gap between dollar growth and volume growth, which signals inflation and fewer promotions, says Roerink.

 SalesDollar sales growthUnit sales growthVolume sales growth
Dried meat snacks total$4.5B+21.8%+11.2%+15.8%
    All other$2.3B+20.2%+9.2%+14.5%
 Source: IRI, MULO+C, 52 weeks ending November 28, 2021 vs. YAGO

Meat snacks have done very well during the pandemic, particularly when consumer mobility resumed and people started to frequent convenience stores once more, she says. Convenience stores represent nearly half of all meat snack sales, at $2.1 billion during the latest 52 weeks, up 21.9 percent. Drug stores are, by far, the smallest channel for meat snacks, combined with the lowest growth, at 8.5 percent. 

Dried meat snacks total52-week salesGrowth versus 2020Growth versus 2019
Multi outlets$4.5B+21.8%+33.0%
Convenience stores$2.1B+21.9%+29.1%
Grocery/food channel$773MM+17.5%+31.9%
Drug channel$117MM+8.5%+2.9%
Source: IRI, MULO+C, 52 weeks ending November 28, 2021 vs. YAGO

Gains are being seen in large and small brands, with some of the nation’s largest brands showing double-digit sales gains during the past year. At the same time, some up-and-comers are seeing triple-digit gains with innovative new products playing into the trends seen in the fresh meat department.

These trends include:

  • Dried meat snacks made with claims-based meat. In addition to organic and antibiotic-free meat, grass-fed beef in particular is a popular innovation in dried meat snacks. Consumers see grass-fed beef as healthier for them and better for the animal and it has been an area of aggressive growth for the meat department for years.
  • Animal protein variety, with dried meat snacks moving beyond beef and pork to include proteins such as bison, turkey and chicken. Additionally, single-serve bacon snacks are entering the marketplace.
  • Plant-based meat alternative snacks that use ingredients such as mushrooms to create protein snacks that in look and positioning are similar to dried meat snacks.
  • Blended items that combine animal protein with other items such as mushrooms to create meat snacks that the consumer may view as a better-for alternatives. 
  • Sugarfree items are another area of innovation for dried meat snacks, addressing the needs of Keto, Paleo and other low-carb diets.